English | Literature in English to 1600
E301 | 11931 | Rob Fulk
E301 LITERATURES IN ENGLISH TO 1600
11931 - 4:00p-5:15p TR (30 students) 3 cr. A&H.
Open to majors and declared minors only.
TOPIC: “The Archaeology of Early English Texts”
The topic of this section will be "The Archaeology of Early English
Texts," and "archaeology" is meant here in its broadest sense.
Although the primary focus of the course will be on the close
reading of English texts from earliest times to the age of
Shakespeare, we will continually attempt to supplement close reading
by placing these texts in their cultural contexts, recovering the
material conditions under which they were produced and received in
the Anglo-Saxon, late medieval, and early modern periods. That is,
we will map and navigate the methods of interpretation peculiar to
the study of texts from periods separated from modern literature by
time and cultural difference. We will, for example, study the
Elizabethan book trade to understand the milieu in which works like
the poems of Wyatt and Surrey, Marlowe's Hero and Leander, and
Shakespeare's sonnets reached the reading public. We will study how
the late medieval explosion of book production and the invention of
the printing press molded the development of canonical forms of
literature, language, and religious and political belief. We will
examine how the concurrent rise of the Gothic style in art and
architecture and of more natural, less stylized literary forms
express a profound cultural shift related to the rise of affective
lay piety. And we will examine the nature of monastic life to
facilitate an understanding of how modern conceptions of literacy as
print-based, of literature as high art, and of authors as
independent agents of inspiration stand in the way of our
understanding of the intentions of those who recorded such works as
Beowulf and The Wanderer in the Old English period. In the process
we will examine some of these works in their manuscript contexts and
learn how to decipher varieties of Tudor and medieval handwriting.
We will be "archaeologists," then, in the sense that we will attempt
to reconstruct literate cultures from their disparate remains and
make sense of early English texts in the context of what we know
about the uses of literacy in early times. In fine, we will aim to
do the work of professional scholars in these periods--the kinds of
work that make medieval and Renaissance studies refreshingly
different and medieval and Renaissance texts documents both
absorbing and enjoyable to study.
The texts to be studied will include all or parts of Beowulf, Sir
Gawain and the Green Knight, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Julian of
Norwich's Showings, The Book of Margery Kempe, Spenser's Faerie
Queene, the Wakefield Secunda pastorum, two Marlowe dramas,
Shakespeare’s Richard III, and lyrics by Wyatt, Surrey, Sidney,
Marlowe, and Shakespeare. Assignments will include three
examinations and three brief analytic papers.